10 Things I Learned From My College Reunion

I went to a reunion 25 years after graduation. Here’s what I learned:

People don’t change

Kind people remain kind, funny people will still make you laugh, and the same characters will still be on the dancefloor.

Unfortunately, it also follows that the dicks will still be dicks. The mildly pompous teen is likely to have surrounded themselves with like-minded air-bags for the intervening 25 years and grown in confidence and verbosity. Still, you no longer live across the hall from them, so enjoy the confusion on their face as you walk away when they’re in mid-flow.

Live your best life

It seemed like half the party-goers had been let out of captivity and were making the most of the freedom before they were caged again. Why?

We are grown-ups now and can enjoy life as we wish. What confuses me is that some people don’t seem to put their back into having fun. I am aware that time and financial constraints clip our wings, but the way many people behaved, I would be surprised if they’d had a drink, a dance or even a giggle since they left University. Which brings me on to my next point..

Life is short

This was confirmed by the memorial wall set up in one corner of beautiful faces which will never grow old. It was sobering to acknowledge how many people didn’t make it to our age. The wall included a face I loved very much, and it was wonderful to talk about him to people who loved him too.

Music is a life-long friend

The band at our reunion was made up of musicians who’d all met at University and who collaborated to perform the best of tunes from our Junior Common Room days. They were all still in touch and got together for practices before the gig. They rocked and looked just as handsome and fabulous as they did 25 years ago — because playing a musical instrument well can do that.

I can’t play an instrument, but I love to dance. The energy I put into dancing can be ascertained by the fact that I once snapped my Achilles tendon whilst dancing at a friend’s wedding. My dancing is less bouncy as a result. I still maintain that music is important, it bonds, it excites, and it allows us to express ourselves in very many ways.

Image — Yuan Thirdy — Upsplash

Look after yourself

I stood next to man I did not recognise at the bar. When he greeted me like an old friend (because I was) it took me some time to find the features of his moon-like face familiar. Another old acquaintance had grey teeth and terrible breath, which made the prospect of a long catch up unattractive. However judgemental this sounds, we are getting old enough for healthy living to matter more than ever, and this was a salutary reminder.

It’s never too late to say thank you

My old Drama Lecturer was at the reunion. She’s nearing retirement and when I told her what a positive impact she’d had on my life, she cried. Many years ago, on a field trip, she’d encouraged me to face my fears, and I did. On the way back, I’d apologised to her for being such a wuss. She told me that I was the bravest person in the group, because I’d completed the task, despite my fear, and that that was real courage.

I told this wonderful lady that I’ve given the same talk to my sometimes-timid daughter and that it’s made a real difference to how we both view ourselves. My Lecturer said she’d been looking back at her long career and wondering if there had been any point to it all. Of course, there was. I’m so pleased I had an opportunity to say thank you.

It’s easy to turn into Eyore

I met a few old faces that drooped more than most, but the droop seemed somehow artificial. You know how some people have the ‘I’m mad, me!’ persona? These people have the ‘I’m sad, me,’ thing going on instead. Typically, an Eyore will take a deep breath, dip their head to one side and raise their eyebrows before answering the standard, ‘How are you?’ The reply will be non-comital but negative all the same. Speech will be slow, and the mouth will turn down at the end of a sentence.

I’m not talking about people who are depressed here, I’m talking about people who have constructed a way of getting the attention they crave by being miserable about things. Think about it, you know at least one. These people confuse me. Why be an Eyore when you could be a Piglet?

Don’t live in the past

I had the most amazing time at that reunion, but many, many people said it was the best time they’d had since leaving University, and that confounds me. Why are they living lives which fall short of the one they had before? If it’s the people (and surely it is), then reconnect and stay connected.

Whilst I would definitely say my four years at College were some of the best of my life, I am different now and some experiences in the intervening years have been better and some worse.

My concern is that some people stop living themselves when they settle down and have children. That’s fairly standard for the infant stages, but most of us were past that. I’m not suggesting people should go clubbing and forget about their families, but I do think that setting the example to your children that life doesn’t stop just because you’re a parent is a positive thing. Would you want your children to lose their identity just because they breed?

Do not attend a University Reunion at any stage in your life unless you are enjoying an uptick in your life-span algorithm, or you are still good friends with others attending.

Why would you expose yourself to the Facebook versions that relative strangers are likely to present unless you’re feeling happy in your own skin at that moment in time (let’s not pretend anyone is always on an upswing).

If you’re still in regular contact with other attendees (and I’m not counting virtual friendships here) and those people still know you and like you, then definitely go. You’ll have the time of your life because there’s nothing like spending time with people you loved when you were young to make you feel 21 again.

Meet with your friends the next day

Finally, I advise a deconstruction session with the main players over a greasy brunch the morning after the night before. That way, you can laugh at your indiscretions and drunken faux pas together and nobody goes home wondering if everyone thought they were the nightmare their hangover tells them they were.

Image — Mauricio Macaro — Pexels

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